Is Medieval Chestnut Festival & Wine Harvest Season For Me?

This is one of our most immersive vacations, and it is not for everyone. Please read this page carefully to make sure it is a right fit for you.

  1. Your Disposition - Our vacations are focused on having a good time with new friends. Everything we do revolves around that. People seeking a self-centered vacation might reconsider. Our groups tend to span all ages, men & women, singles & couples... everyone is welcome, and when our guests come ready to embrace a new culture, look forward to trying new things, and interact with other guests, it is always amazing. Even the way our guests see us is important. If you see us as "providers of a service", you may reconsider our trips. We bring you into our family and become part of the group with you... as though you are visiting friends and family. If you are able to be in this frame of mind, our trips will be like nothing you have ever experienced, but if you are looking for a more detached relationship with us, our trips may not be for you.
  2. A Festival Itinerary - This week is very similar to most of our "Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun" weeks, however, there are a few big differences because of the festival we have in Soriano on these weeks. The key differences may or may not be something everyone desires. Here are a few of them:

    Arrivals - We are unable to do an afternoon pick up on the start date, because we are unable to get our transportation into town. Because of this, we ONLY do morning shuttles this week.

    Sunday is mostly On Your Own - The first full day of the week is Sunday, and all of the roads into town are closed today in order to host the festival booths, festivities, and influx of people here. Because of this, we have no activities scheduled this day, but rather allow you time on your own to enjoy the festival. We do, however, have lunch and dinner together, and on dates during which there is a performance with seating in the square, we all have tickets together.

    The are 3 cooking classes this week - While we normally have 4 cooking classes, this week we only have 3. The class we would normally have on Sunday is cancelled in order to give you time at the festival.

    Festival Food - For one lunch and dinner on Sunday, we will be eating in the local festival "taverns". These are volunteer-run temporary restaurants that hare here just for the festival. As festival-style taverns, the dishes and flatware are plastic, but the food is incredibly good!

    Walking - There is more walking than normal this week. Since on the weekends, the town closes to vehicle traffic for most of the day, we cannot get our transportation in and out of town. So when we drop you off on a few days, we will need to drop you off rightly 500 feet from the town square. Additionally, as you browse the festival, it ill be all on foot.

    Seating Issues - Some of the festival events have reserved seating, and some do not. When they do not, it is always on a first come, first served basis, and people often grab seats hours in advance. As such, when reserved seating is unavailable, our guests need to individually make do with what they can find. At times, we are able to secure a balcony in the stands so we can all see the festivities, but it is not always possible. When reserved seating IS available, we always buy a block of tickets for our guests in advance. The one item of caution when we do have seating, is that the stands are designed in such a way that the only exit from the stands in right into the main square, so spectators cannot leave the stands during a performance in the square. While this isn't an issue for most events, as they are rarely longer than 45 minutes, on the final Sunday of the festival, the main event can last up to 3 hours.

    The Palio - The Palio competition during the festival happens in the afternoon of the 1st Sunday of the festival. It does not happen in the center of town, but rather just below town, about 1 mile (1.6 km) away. Everyone that attends gets there and back on foot, and the roads are closed to vehicle traffic. The walk TO the Palio event is downhill, making the return an uphill walk. The event consists of ring jousting an archery. Each of the 4 clans run their horsemen through the track once for each round, meaning that you will see 12 ring jousting runs. The archery has each clan's archer shooting at targets from 3 different distances. There is always a long pause between the rounds, such that the entire event usually runs about 3 hours. There is NO seating at the event, so all attendees stand or sit on the grass. Most of our guests usually choose to walk the fair, rather than attend the Palio, but when guests wish to attend, we will always have some of our team come with you. In such cases, we will usually leave an hour or so into the competition, such that we don't have 3 hours watching the same thing.

    Timing and Logistics - As much as we like for everything to go according to schedule, during the festival weeks, we are at the mercy of things we cannot control. We never completely know how the schedule will work out, as last minute changes are frequent. As such, all of our plans are "so long as there are no surprises".

    Crowds and Noise - This is one of the larger festivals in the country. Our little town of 8,000 people will swell beyond its limits for the two weekends. On one hand, there is a wonderful charge of energy that cannot be put into words, but on the other had, it will get crowded on the weekends. You will be hearing lots of trumpets and drums while you are here, and people will be out very late at night. On the weekends, do not expect quiet until at least after midnight.
  3. Be Ready to Embrace the Culture - Our trips focus on bringing you into the true culture of the place, but some guests prefer to see it, but not live it. We embrace the culture and do things the way locals do, which may or may not be what you are looking for. This includes little things like not having cappuccino with our meals (Italians only have cappuccino as a breakfast beverage), not having bacon and eggs for breakfast (Italians have coffee or tea and pastries), or larger things, like the fact that we have our dinners after 8:00 PM, like the Italians, do. Every step of the way we adapt to the local culture, rather than asking the local culture to adapt to us. This also tends to make us much more welcome guests than other groups!
  4. Physical Intensity - You by no means need to be athletic for this vacation, but you must be able to handle some level of physical exertion. A good rule to follow would be to ask yourself if you can do three flights of stairs, then continue walking without needing to sit down for a while.
  5. Age Concerns - We have had guests as old as 90 years old with no problems whatsoever. Age is not a limiting factor, so long as you are in good physical condition with no health problems that exertion would complicate.
  6. Altitude - Soriano is at an altitude of 2,000 feet (600 meters).
  7. Walking & Bus Time - In Italy, walking is always a larger concern than it probably is back home. This is because the towns are ancient, and much is closed to vehicle traffic. Some guests are also concerned about how much time they will spend on a bus. While we are in a very central area, we try to go to some of the most interesting places. Some days will have more travel time, and some very little.

Total Walking & Bus Time for the Week

  • Total Walking All Week: ~5.5 miles (8.8 km)
    This is the total for the entire week, not per day, and does not include walking between your home and the town piazza each day.
  • Total Time in Bus All Week: ~11 hours
    This is the total for the entire week, not per day, and does not include transfers at beginning and end of the week.

Detail Day By Day:

While in Soriano
Soriano is a castle-topped hill town. There are moderate inclines while walking in town. Furthermore, some of our homes are in the medieval quarter, which is up a hill in an area that only allows foot traffic. Some of the homes have stairs (none more than three flights). All of our days start and end in the town piazza. The homes are all close to the piazza, but in different locations. The most distant home is 580 feet (175 meters) from the piazza. 250 feet (80 meters) of that walk is up a moderate incline.

Day Walking Bus Rest Time
Saturday On Saturday when you arrive, you will be walking from piazza to your home to check in. We will help with your bags if you desire. In the evening, we take a stroll around the village, then to dinner. Between the stroll and the restaurant where we have dinner, we will walk roughly 0.6 miles (1 km) today, not including the walking between your home and piazza. About 1,100 feet (470 meters) of this is on a slight to moderate incline. The only time you will be on the bus today is to get to Soriano. If you come from the Rome airport, it is roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you come from the Orte train station, it is roughly 20 minutes. n/a
Sunday Walking to Piazza from all homes is either flat, or downhill. The amount of walking will depend on how much you explore the fair, and if you go to the Palio. If we have the Palio today, the walk will be 1 mile each way if you choose to attend it. Note the return walk is mostly uphill. If you stay in Soriano to visit the stands, walking can be as much or as little as you like. We will not be in the bus at all today. There is a great deal of free time on Sunday to do as you please.
Monday This is our first full day out. There is very little walking in Deruta, as we are just visiting a factory here. In Assisi, there is about 0.8 miles (1.4 km) of walking, mostly flat and slight incline. If you decide to also go up to the top, add an addition 0.6 miles (1 km), half of which is uphill, but you can opt out of doing this in favor of not only visiting the Basilica of St. Francis, but also for shopping or relaxing. The morning drive to Deruta is about an hour and fifteen minutes. The drive from Assisi to Deruta is about 30 minutes. The drive home from Assisi is about an hour an a half. Most of the drive today in on highways, so winding roads is not a big concern. Today is a full day out. We will not be back in town until dinner time, and we go directly to dinner tonight. Most guests take time to close their eyes on the bus ride.
Tuesday During our evening excursion and dinner in Viterbo, we will walk roughly 1.1 miles (1.7 km) as we stroll through the city. The walk is mostly flat or very slight incline at times. The drive to the villa in the morning is about 5 minutes. For the evening excursion, we will be in the bus for roughly 25 minutes each way. We usually have about 2 hours of down time between the cooking class and our excursion to Viterbo. This depends on how long lunch goes at the villa. Sometimes everyone just chooses to relax at the villa, causes less time back in town before Viterbo. If you wish to opt out of the excursion to Viterbo today, you will also be on your own for dinner, because we are having dinner while out.
Wednesday This is a long day out, but there are only about 0.9 miles (1.5 km) of walking all day. It is mostly flat and there are no uphill walks at all. There is, however, a 0.4 mile (0.6 km) walk after the last winery that is all downhill, which is factored into the total for the day. Today is our longest driving day. We will spend a total of about four and a half hours on the bus today. The morning drive to Montalcino will be roughly two hours and fifteen minutes. After that, we will be backtracking toward home for the rest of the day. The drive from the abbey to the winery is ten minutes. The drive to Pienza is twenty minutes. The drive to Montalcino is twenty minutes. Finally, the drive home will be about an hour and twenty minutes. Additionally, when we are in Montepulciano, the winery is at the top of the city hill, where we cannot drive. Rather than have you walk up the steep hill, we take a short (5 or 10 minute) city bus ride to get there. Today is a full day out, and we are having lots of wine. It is very relaxing along the way, but our guests are always thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day. The bus ride back to Soriano is usually quiet as most of the guests are taking a little snooze.
Thursday Today offers the most challenging day for anyone that is out of shape. When we get to the dying city, we'll have to walk from the shuttle drop-off point to the footbridge which is about 1/4 mile down some stairs and roadway. When we reach the bridge, there is a 1,000 foot (320 meters) footbridge to get up to the village. This bridge is high, fairly narrow, and half is on a moderate incline, and half is a steep incline. Once in the village, everything is mostly flat. We'll also be walking back the same route from where we started. Guests choosing to come with us, but not walk the bridge can wait for us at a cafe if they choose. But there is no legal way to get up to the village other than on foot. After the dying city, there is no significant walking for the rest of the day. The drive from Soriano to the dying city is about 45 minutes. The drive from the dying city to the winery & olive mill is about 20 minutes. The drive back to the villa in the afternoon is about 40 minutes. Today is a quite relaxing day. After the morning excursion, we go straight to the villa for the cooking class and dinner, which is a less intense cooking day.
Friday In Orvieto, you can estimate 0.75 miles (1.2 km) of walking today, mostly flat. The drive to Orvieto is about 40 minutes each way. Today is a relaxing day. After the morning excursion, we go straight to the villa for the cooking class and dinner, which is a less intense cooking day.

How This Trip is Unique From Our Others

Many people ask us how our locations are different when trying to choose the trip that is best for them. Each of our locations is different not just in the places you see, but in the overall "feel" of the week. Here is some information about the Soriano weeks to help you choose:

Luxury-Factor Soriano is more down to earth - Our cooking classes in Soriano are "family style". They are structured like a group of friends cooking family recipes together. The town itself has few "tourist" services. It is off the beaten path, and most of the shops are there for the locals, not visitors. Additionally, you are not staying in a hotel, but rather in a self-catering village home. What this means, is that you will not have hotel services here, but you will be living among the local residents.
Activity Level The Soriano itinerary is very action-packed - Between cooking, excursions, cultural experiences, etc., we have something going on all day, every day. There is little "down time". That said, we structure our excursions and activities on most days in a way that it is easy to opt out of something so that you have whatever amount of downtime you like. For example, you may want to opt out of a morning excursion, but be there for the afternoon cooking class. In that case, we would simply pick you up in the afternoon.
Cultural Immersion The Soriano weeks are very immersive - An immersive experience in Italy has upsides and downsides. You must be very ready to embrace things as they come. Things are not always on time, a restaurant may be unexpectedly closed, and things will not necessarily work as we want them to. For example, The fact that a home has internet does not mean it will work on a given day. Getting a tech in a small village is not as easy as you may expect. Additionally, many services people look for may not be available in a small town that is not accustomed to tourism.

Special Needs we can (and cannot) cater to in Soriano

Physical Limitations You must be able to walk up to a mile and do at least a couple flights of stairs in order to go on the excursions on this trip. If you are unsure, please be aware that while we do all that we can to help our guests, we cannot do so at the expense of other guests. As such, if you are unable to walk during any of our excursions, we ask that you have someone come with you that can assist you.
Food Limitations We can cater to most food allergies, vegetarian diets, and to some extent kosher diets. We will substitute with other dishes if you let us know in advance. We can even cater to a gluten-free diet. Our cooking class menus will not change based on a guest's food limitations, but even in the classes, we can usually offer alternatives to eat. That said, if you do have limitations, it is important that you have a positive attitude about it. We are happy to substitute, but the variety of alternatives may be limited.